Aled Jones visits London's Chinatown and introduces hymns from St Martin-in-the-Fields, with a performance by cellists Julian Lloyd Webber and his wife Jiaxin.
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Xin Nian Kuair Le - that's Happy New Year in Chinese.
As the year of the horse begins, I'm in London,
home to Britain's largest Chinese population.
About 10% percent of the UK's Chinese citizens are Christians.
Right next door to London's bustling Chinatown is the church of St Martin-in-the-Fields.
A church where, for decades, East and West have met.
So, what better time than Chinese New Year to celebrate
the 50th anniversary of St Martin's Chinese congregation?
Tonight's hymns are sung by congregations gathered in St Martin's
and by the church's English and Chinese choirs.
There's a special Songs Of Praise performance of sacred music
by husband and wife cello duo, Julian and Jiaxin Lloyd Webber.
The Chinese New Year is no different between Christian and non-Christian.
Chinese New Year is very important for Chinese people to celebrate.
For most it's like a family get-together
so it's as important as Christmas for Western people.
Chinese New Year actually is a very different way of calculating the time,
so Chinese New Year is the beginning of the lunar year.
The Chinese New Year means family will gather together
to celebrate the beginning of the spring.
Whether you're celebrating spring, Candlemas or Chinese New Year,
there's a welcome for all at the landmark church on Trafalgar Square.
As well as its many outreach missions,
St Martin's is a church famous for its music, so let's now join
members of both its English and Chinese speaking congregations
reminding Christians all over the world to raise their voices in song.
The first recorded Chinese visitor to Britain was Christian convert
and Jesuit priest, Michael Alfonsus Shen Fu-Tsung in 1685.
In 1805, it required an act of Parliament for a Chinese man to become a British citizen,
making his oath of allegiance by smashing a china saucer
to symbolise breaking with his old country.
Many of the Chinese who came here as immigrants in the mid-20th century
were from the then British colony of Hong Kong
and St Martin's was one of the first churches to welcome them.
St Martin's is not just about helping people out
when they are on the underside of life.
It's about sharing their enjoyment across all sorts of cultures
and diverse forms of expression.
The Chinese are very much part of that tradition.
They run their own life,
they run their own mission and we try to give them the support to do that.
The Chinese congregation in St Martin's is very, very special
because there are the old and the young
and they gather together to celebrate their 50th anniversary.
St Martin's is one of the earliest Chinese congregations in London.
It started in the '60s because the church is not far away from Chinatown
which is home for the Hong Kong community.
Most of them work in restaurants or takeaways
and most of them do not finish until one or two in the morning,
or sometimes not even until three o'clock before they go to bed.
Owing to these unsocial working hours,
the Chinese service at St Martin's has traditionally been held in the afternoon
to allow the worshippers a well-earned lie in before church.
Later in the '70s, we started rapidly growing into a congregation
with around 300 people here.
Most of them were not Christian but they came here just for comfort and for fellowship.
Later they went to the service and then became Christians.
The charity that runs the Chinese community centre
is based in the new development underneath St Martin's.
It's called the Bishop Ho Ming Wah Association.
The name was given to Bishop Hall of Hong Kong by the Chinese people
and means "he who understands the Chinese".
It was the bishop who first sent the Reverend SY Lee over to St Martin's in the mid-1960s
to start ministering to the Chinese.
The Lee family are still connected with the church.
I think Grandfather will probably smile down on us!
But he would be happy that we have done our best
and have developed with society's needs.
It is essentially the elderly, they come to the charity
and they come here for luncheons and socialising and their t'ai chi classes.
There are English classes for everybody.
Also there's Chinese classes for the younger generation, including myself.
Basically, I've been part of St Martin's for my whole life
because my parents got married there
and I was baptised with my sister
and then confirmed there and I have been there ever since.
I worship there every Sunday.
For a second-generation Chinese person like myself,
what's important has been the link to the Chinese culture and the language
because the service is conducted in both Cantonese and English.
Sometimes, if you miss something in one language, you can catch it in the other.
At St Martin's, seeing so many people of different cultures and languages coming together,
it makes you feel that we are all part of one family and in one faith and believing in one God.
Also that there are no barriers to our faith.
Christians may have visited China as early as the 7th century
but, between the 13th and 16th centuries, first Franciscan and Dominican Friars
and then the Jesuits preached the gospel to the Chinese.
Christians were, at times, the Emperor's favourites,
or at least tolerated, but sometimes they were persecuted.
By the early 1800s,
the first Protestant missionaries arrived in China.
Rev Robert Morrison was the first to translate the Bible into Chinese.
But now, many Chinese Christians are bringing the good news
of Christianity back to the West.
I am a full-time missionary,
working with Chinese Overseas Christian Mission.
This mission was founded
in 1950 with the vision to bring the good news of Jesus Christ
to the Chinese people living in the UK and Europe.
'We started to realise that the harvest today actually was the seeds
'sown by those early missionaries going to China sacrificially,
'giving and sharing the love of Jesus Christ with so many Chinese people.
'So, we just felt like now it is the time for us to pay the debt back.'
Our Chinese churches in the UK and Europe usually view Chinese New Year
as a good time to do evangelistic work because it is a good time
to invite people around for celebration in the church with the church family.
We will be also able to not only physically be in union with your family members on the Earth
but actually help people to think about the reunion with the Father in heaven.
The Christian faith appeals to me not as a religion or as an idea
but basically it is about a relationship.
I see this as an opportunity to bring this faith,
this faith in Jesus Christ, to them, introduce them to the love of Christ
so that they can find the purpose of their life in Christ.
A lot of people are just after material things.
They think the wealthier you are, the richer you are, the better you are.
People are busy with chasing after all this wealth, success and fame,
and they don't have enough room to think about some deeper and bigger questions in their lives.
This beautiful church takes its name
from the 4th-century saint Martin of Tours.
On a cold winter's day, St Martin, a Roman soldier,
cut his cloak in half to share with a stranger who appeared as a beggar.
That night, the stranger returned to him in a dream
as Christ wearing the half cloak saying,
"For as much as you did it for the least of these, you did it for me."
The spirit of this great saint lives on.
From the earliest times, St Martin-in-the-Fields
has helped the needy, the homeless, and welcomed the stranger.
In fact, since the early 20th century,
it's been known as the church of the ever-open door.
The famous vicar Dick Sheppard started St Martin's mission
to the homeless during World War I
by opening the church to soldiers on their way to the front.
Sheppard later opened the doors to the world
when he broadcast the very first church service on the BBC,
from here, 90 years ago.
And now, the Chinese congregation,
who were invited to share this church 50 years ago,
are celebrating another fulfilment of Christ's words.
"I was a stranger and you welcomed me."
Bible Society and other Christian missions estimate
that, in today's China, the world's most populous country,
there may be as many as 200 million Christians.
But the Communist Party, who have ruled since 1949,
claim that there are fewer than 20 million.
In the 1960s and '70s, during the Cultural Revolution,
all religions were forbidden.
But religious activity, restricted to places of worship only,
has been officially tolerated by the atheist state
for the last few decades
and Chinese Christianity is rapidly becoming
the world's fastest-growing faith.
Soprano Chen Wang was brought up atheist,
but became a Christian as a student in the UK.
At the beginning of the study time, I was quite lonely and homesick
and I, soon, I met the Christian students and friends
and I went to church
and they are really loving and giving and generous.
I was curious where this love comes from.
And then, I want to find out,
so I just started to attend their Bible Study
and did lots of activities with them
and then, I find out God is the source of love.
We are all made in image of God,
so no matter I'm Chinese or you're English or, you know,
there are different nationalities,
we're all naturally attracted to our creator.
God is love and he is eternal
and he has a plan for everyone.
And for me, it really teaches me
that it is my responsibility to really guard my gifts well
and, as God gave me the singing voice,
and to develop it, to really discipline myself
so in order to...I can use it well
and to serve him and serve people.
World-renowned cellist Julian Lloyd Webber is married to Jiaxin,
who's from a Chinese Christian family.
Touring as a cello duo,
the couple illustrates how classical music can be a channel
for international relations.
All countries are very keen to develop business
and trade with China, but it shouldn't only be about that.
It's very important, I think, to have cultural links as well
and I think music is really the ultimate link
between a mind of a composer and going through the performer
and then going on and bringing that to an audience,
and there's something very spiritual about the whole process.
I think at your best moments of playing,
you do feel that there's something almost taking you over.
And what does it feel like, you know,
playing this religious music together?
Oh, definitely, I feel more calm and more peaceful.
My parents are both religious, so I'm quite familiar with that
so, to me, it's quite a close feeling to me.
Your father wanted to play the cello?
He always wanted to be a musician,
especially wanted to play cello, but at that time,
because of the Cultural Revolution,
they couldn't do any Western music,
so that was his dream.
So my dad really wanted me
to be a musician,
especially a cellist,
so when I was six,
he decided to take me to a teacher.
I think it means to them a lot, because they see their dream
kind of come true, because that was their dream.
So especially when I was on stage
and also when they listen to the CD we made,
they're just so moved then, so... I'm sure they're very, very happy.
I hope so.
God, the holy Trinity, in your diversity we see
the glory of difference, detail and delight.
Send your spirit on the families of the nations
that each in their particularity
may reflect the detail of your son's incarnation in whose name we pray.
St Martin's is famous for the practical Christianity at its heart.
For its British and Chinese congregations,
and the many tourists of all faiths and none
who are welcomed through its door every day,
this is so much more than just a beautiful and historic building.
This church is made from living stones.
Next week, David takes a nostalgic look at Sunday schools
and hears how they've been enjoyed by every generation.
Bill Kenwright explains why they're even responsible
for Everton Football Club.
Plus there's favourite Sunday school hymns
sung by our School Choirs Of The Year.
You won't want to miss it.
Aled Jones visits London's Chinatown and introduces hymns from St Martin-in-the-Fields, a church with its own congregation of Chinese Christians, together with a performance by cellists Julian Lloyd Webber and his wife Jiaxin.